It was getting dark when Meghna returned home. She saw her dad lying in the easy chair totally engrossed in a Magazine. She tiptoed across the verandah and into her room. She noticed the silence but didn?t notice her father watching her over the magazine. She had hardly taken a sip of her evening tea when he came over.
“Meghna, I am going for a walk. Come and join me” He said. His tone wasn?t casual.
Occasionally Mr. Sequeira went for a walk along the public park and if Meghna was free, he would invite her too. That was the only time father and daughter got to talk to each other without being supervised by the mother. Unfortunately for Meghna, father had invited her at a very wrong time. She was not in a mood to either go for a walk or talk to him. But refusing his invitation would also bring suspicion. She was already sensing a difference in the way father looked at her. So without wasting any time she changed into her track pants and reluctantly followed him to the park.
The park was nearly a kilometer away and all through the walk, father kept silent. The silence was frightening. She realized something was coming. He stopped at an isolated part of the park surrounded by bushes. Then she heard him take a deep breath.
” Have you had a gift from anybody recently ? “
She froze! The first thing that flashed into her mind was the umbrella. So here it was, the noose tightening around her neck.
She opened her mouth. She wanted to say “No”. But her mouth just fell open as father looked around, took out the Neeldhara from his pocket and held it in front of her.
It was frightening to see Dad holding that diamond necklace. And his gaze was terrifying. She gulped a mouthful. Her cheeks started trembling. She felt her legs loosing strength and next moment she had collapsed into her father?s arms.
” Oh Dad” she started crying. ” I stole it”
…Her world of fantasy was now busted. Until now she didn?t know what was ailing her. Despite her attempt to overcome the habit, she gave in to temptation every time…..
It struck him like lightning. She cried bitterly. She held on to his shoulder for a long time because she was too afraid to look him in the eyes.
“But why Meghna ?” His voice too was trembling. ” Why on earth did you ever have to steal that necklace ? “
“That?s because dad ” It sounded like her last drop of energy. ” I have stolen before” He couldn?t believe what he was hearing. He gasped for breath.
“How many times have you stolen ? “
“A couple of times”
“And where have you kept all those items”
She now looked at him ” I returned them”
“Returned them ?”
It was a bit too much on the old man. He could not understand what his daughter had turned into. He had spent too much of his time chasing his ambitions and here he was, learning from his daughter that she had turned to stealing.
“And what are you planning to do with this one ?”
Meghna had no answer. It was now his turn to put himself in the father?s shoes.
“Meghna” He addressed her in a stern voice. “Do you know what you are doing ? You are taking us all to the hangman?s noose. Did you know the worth of that necklace when you toyed with the idea of stealing it ? And now do you know what will happen if anyone finds out ?”
Again Meghna had no answer. Her world of fantasy was now busted. Until now she didn?t know what was ailing her. Despite her attempt to overcome the habit, she gave in to temptation every time. She had come to believe that the best way to overcome temptation is to succumb to it.
But there was a saving grace. She could now thank God that her father had found out before the Police or any one else could. Who else could be more trust worthy than a father in a situation like this ?
The way back to the house was as silent as the way to the park. Mr.Sequeira was now a very worried man. He appeared to have suddenly aged ten more years. His future as a public figure loomed in front of him. What if any one found out that his daughter was a thief ? Would it be a good idea for her to surrender to the Police and return the Necklace ? No. It would make front page news and the Sequeira?s would be counted for a family of thieves for ever.
As they approached home, he appeared to have reached a decision. “Tomorrow” he said in a low voice “we are going to see Dr. Norbert. But until then keep everything to yourselves”
Dr.Norbert was a well known member of the Lions club. He was a practicing Psychiatrist at a local hospital and was known for his modern outlook at problems related to the mind. Even though Mr.Sequeira didn?t go to him for professional help, he would wittingly or unwittingly chat up about his family and work related problems and get some enlightenment. And now he expected Dr.Norbert to be certainly of some help in a situation of this magnitude.
Next day as they entered Dr. Norbert?s office, Meghna grew extremely nervous. The prospect of telling everything to the man who was known to her father made her hesitant. But there was no other choice. Dr. Norbert was a very down to earth looking middle aged man. As Meghna emptied her heart before him in the privacy of his office, he wasn?t looking at her like someone would look at a thief. He was looking at her like scientist would look at a valuable relic. It took him a long time to break open the psyche of this girl, as Mr. Sequeira restlessly strolled in the corridor.
It was nearly an hour later that Meghna emerged from the doctor?s office. Her red face showed that she was thoroughly shaken up. As he helped her calm down he heard Dr.Norbert calling him.
“Yes doctor” He entered the doctor?s cabin, anticipation writ large on his face.
“Long time Mr.Sequeira, you appear to be too busy to visit this good old friend of yours” Dr.Norbert looked him meaningfully.
“True, I have been working hard trying to save this city from going under the sea. Now tell me doctor, what bad news do you have for me”
“It?s not all bad news Mr. Sequeira” Dr.Norbert said as he lit a cigarette. He waited until the first puff took effect.
“Your daughter has explained to me all what she has been going through. I seldom get cases of this nature. She has all the maturity and intellect a girl of her age should have. She is a little more intelligent I must say. What is ailing her is only an accident”
Mr. Sequeira listened intently.
“I wonder if you have heard the word ‘Kleptomania?. It is quite well known in the west but rarely heard of in our country. You daughter appears to be a full blown case of this condition. Since it is quite common among girls we see them normally caught at shops and supermarkets. Your daughter has reached a point where stealing things of little value doesn?t satisfy her anymore. “
Mr.Sequeira had not heard that word before. Neither did he know stealing could be a disease.
“I get your point doctor. But of all the people, why my daughter ?” He spread his hands on the table.
To be continued…
Author: Remy DSouza- Kuwait